For prepared foods, one week in the cooler is the longest I go. Covered, always, and dated seven days from the day you place it in the cooler or deli case. Add A.M. or P.M., which means before noon or afternoon if you want. Beyond that you’re being too picky with the time.
For foods you prepare from scratch to be doled out daily, place in containers that reflect the amount you may use or sell. Don’t keep a large amount of food in one container, that people go to often. Split it up into smaller sizes. If the containers are handled properly, I’ve never had a problem keeping a homemade sauce, soup, pudding for one week. No longer.
If I use leftovers to incorporate into a ‘daily special’ for the next day, then whatever isn’t sold gets dumped.
Every day taste every prepared item you’re selling to make sure it’s still fresh and the way you want it to taste. Just the tip of a spoon is fine. One spoon per dish. If you don’t taste the food you prepare, then how can you tell your customers what it tastes like with confidence?
Some businesses take out too much food at once, thinking the preservatives will keep it fresh.
Preservatives don’t keep anything fresh-tasting. What they do is prolong the spoiling time by inhibiting growths of mold or bacteria. Food can still taste stale or old or flavorless, although it isn’t yet spoiled.
If you won’t taste something, because you don’t want to taste ‘spoiled’ food, then the product is too old. Dump it. Why would you give somebody else a product that you won’t taste? You need to stand by your product.
If you don’t want to taste food or don’t even like to eat, or are squeamish about food, then get out of the food service business. You belong someplace else.
Smelling won’t necessarily tell you that something is spoiled. Slime will. Feel with clean fingers or move the item around in the container to look for glistening in the bottom of the container. If it’s there dump it. Where’s the date label?
Fruits and veggies create slime on their surfaces when too old to consume. Grains, meaning pasta, rice and ancient grains, and dried, cooked beans as well as cooked potatoes do the same.
Cooked beans and legumes have a short shelf life. Never leave them unrefrigerated, unless they’re on a heat table, or being served right away or are submerged in a vinegar based salad dressing. Even then, keep them on a chill table if they’re in a salad.
It’s best if serving dried cooked beans in anything but vinegar and oil, to cook them more often as needed – at least twice a week if they’re on the permanent menu.
Any dish with creamy sauce or mayonnaise – even if plant-based – should be made at least twice a week. Don’t try to make a huge amount so it will last longer. It takes up too much space in the cooler and too many dips by too many employees increases the risk of contamination.
Never, ever, cut around mold on fresh fruits or vegetables to eat the rest, or use the remainder in a recipe. Mold spores travel throughout wet foods – especially fruits. A large mold spot on the top, means there are mold spores all throughout the fresh item. Toss it. I see people cutting around mold all the time. Stores will sell partially molded food at a lower price. I say why play with fire? Oh, a little mold never hurt anybody, or you have to eat a peck of dirt before you die? Not in my kitchen you don’t.
Believe this: Restaurant and food service proprietors are some of the most unscrupulous people on the planet. They’ll serve you slime without even wondering if they can get away with it. What you don’t see won’t hurt you is their motto. Don’t be that person. Or if you currently are, knock it off now. You will get caught.